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Lustgarten Foundation’s Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk

Raising Money, Awareness for a Deadly Disease

The Lustgarten Foundation was founded 10 years ago and has grown so much that the people running its annual Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk have had to move the venue to accommodate the 4,000 people expected to attend this weekend.

“We have grown pretty steadily; had 4,000 people last year,” said Kerri Kaplan, the executive director of The Lustgarten Foundation. “It’s mostly Long Islanders, so for a disease that only affects 40,000 people a year, it’s a huge amount of supporters in a place like Long Island.”

The Lustgarten Foundation’s10th annual Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk will be held this Sunday, July 25 at Nassau Community College in Garden City. This is Kaplan’s fifth year doing the walk and said she is hoping the fundraiser brings in over $1 million to pay for research of the deadly disease.

“We had an idea to do a grassroots fundraising effort 10 years ago,” Kaplan told Anton Newspapers. The foundation, located in Bethpage, was started in 1998, founded by the Dolan Family and Lustgarten Family. Lustgarten was a senior executive at Cablevision who had pancreatic cancer and there was very little information about the disease and very little research, so the families created the foundation to change that.

“We started to put together major fundraising events,” Kaplan said. “For people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, most people don’t survive.”

In its 10-year history, the Lustgarten Foundation walk has raised more than $6.2 million for promising research. In addition to uniting thousands in the spirit of hope, the money raised goes to advancing research aimed at early detection methods, better treatments, and ultimately, a cure for pancreatic cancer, the most lethal cancer there is.

Emily Smith, a 15-year-old from Massapequa is one of those people who have participated in the walk in memory of her grandmother, who died from pancreatic cancer.

Smith created a project for school about the Lustgarten Foundation, writing a research paper, shooting a TV commercial and designing a print advertisement for the philanthropic organization. Using information she found from the Lustgarten Foundation’s Web site, lustgarten.org and its sister site, curepc.org, as well as statistic from other sites, Smith compiled her project, hoping to inform people of the disease, gain financial support for the disease and emotional support for families.

“It’s such an orphan disease, few people get it but they almost always die from it,” Smith’s mother, Christine, told Anton Newspapers. Smith’s mother sent her daughter’s project to their family members, who participate together in the annual walk, and Smith’s aunt sent the project out to the Lustgarten Foundation and media organizations.

“ All 100 percent goes to research,” Kaplan said. “Anyone who comes out and walks and gets sponsors, every dollar that we raise goes to research.”

Kaplan said people can still register for the walk through the website, www.curepc. org, or on location the day of the event. Those who want to provide financial support but can’t attend the walk on Sunday can still give through the Web site.

Cablevision underwrites the Lustgarten Foundation’s administrative expenses, ensuring that 100 percent of every dollar donated goes directly to research to find a cure for pancreatic cancer.

Kaplan said that even during that first year in existence, the Lustgarten Foundation raised $150,000 for research using its walk.

“These families that are left behind are so passionate,” Kaplan said. “These wonderful passionate families, they want to join the fight and raise money and raise awareness.”